For a lot of us, including myself, a typical weekday involves going into an office, sitting at a desk and staring at a screen for hours and hours on end. Anyone else get stiff and maybe even sore by the end of the day? I sure do! Anyone else feel like their 9-5 is more like an 8-6? Yep, me again!! The more active and health conscious I have become over the past two years, the less I like being sedentary for any prolonged amount of time. I love being in motion and I love being active so sitting at desk for 8 hours a day is a real challenge for me. To avoid all the pitfalls that come from office life and being sedentary for so much of the day I have started incorporating a few different techniques into my daily work routine to help combat some of the negative side effects that come along with our work lives. I thought I would share some of my suggestions today for all my friends out there who are also chained to a desk and a screen like I am:
Set a timer or alarm to remind you to get up and move every so often:
My Apple Watch alerts me when it is time to stand up and move around, but you can also set a reminder on your phone or computer to go off every so often telling you it is time to get up and stretch your legs. I would recommend that every 60 minutes (30 if you are ambitious) you get up and at least do a few stretches or take a stroll around the office. Heck maybe instead of sending that one email, go walk to your coworker’s office and respond in person or better yet take a walk to the water cooler and refill your bottle so you’re getting some steps in and staying hydrated!! At the very least stand up, do a few stretches, work on your flexibility and get the blood flowing again. Sitting down too long has been shown to lead to poor circulation, weight gain, even more serious things like heart disease and anxiety/depression! I also tend to think giving your eyes a break from that darn screen every so often during the day is a must as well!
Use your lunch break to be active:
Ok I have said this one a million times, but I can’t emphasize enough what a huge difference this has made for me in the pursuit of my health and fitness goals!! I would say in general we all get at least 30 minutes to an hour for lunch each day…use that to be as active possible! I make it a point, no matter how busy my day is, to spend a portion of my lunch hour being active. I either take my laptop over to my office gym and get the next workout in my program done, use it to take a walk/run around the paths I am lucky enough to have by my building or even just use the time to get a good foam rolling or a stretching session in. I can’t tell you how refreshed and refocused I am for the second half of the day after I have taken this mid-day break. Getting my workout done on my lunch break also frees up my evenings so I don’t’ have to worry about rushing home and getting it done after a long day or risk missing it altogether because a last minute work happy hour pops up, or a friend wants to grab dinner at the last minute. Again, the goal here is to just be active for a bit to break up the amount of time you are sitting on your rear throughout the day.
This is something my boss implemented about a year ago to help us all stay healthy both physically and mentally. We have a scheduled yoga class every other Tuesday for an hour right around mid-day. We are lucky enough to have a yoga instructor come in to the office, we all get our mats out and spend our lunch hour stretching and clearing our minds. It is a great way to disconnect, get re-centered and take time out of a busy day and week to release some tension. If getting everyone together and bringing in a yoga instructor in isn’t realistic where you work, there are also poses you can practice solo at your desk. A few examples are:
- Seated Twist – This is a simple one that just requires you to sit straight up, take a deep breath in, rotate your torso all the way to one side, exhaling, and then inhaling and repeating to the other side. This is a great stretch for your back, helps to elongate your spine and even helps keep your hips loose.
- Wrist & Hand Stretch – This is a really great one for all my fellow office workers who sit and type, type, type away all day long. I don’t know about you, but my wrists, particularly my right wrist which I use to move my mouse around all day, gets cramped by the end of a long day. You can do this stretch by simply extending both arms out with your palms facing up, bending your wrists down and making circles in either direction with your wrists. I add a little extra stretch by using one hand to bend back my fingers on the other hand as far down as my wrist will comfortably allow and holding for about 5-10 seconds. This really gives your forearm a nice stretch and keeps the knots away.
- Forward Fold – This is one of my favorites as it stretches out both your back and your hamstrings all at once. All that this pose requires is for you to stand up for a few minutes, fold forward and hold this fold for 15-20 seconds while you are letting your shoulders and arms hang lose. Slowly roll up and repeat. I do this stretch a few times in a row while taking a big breath in and out and I feel a million times better instantly. I feel my blood flowing again, my energy levels go up and even my stress levels go down. This pose is also just a great full body that really unlocks several large muscle groups that tend to get tight when we sit too long.
Keep Healthy Food on Hand:
One of the biggest pitfalls of working in an office is there always seems to be donuts, pastries, cookies, pizza and/or chips laying around ripe for the pillaging! Between sitting for long hours and mindlessly snacking on these less than healthy options or in some case stress eating throughout the day, gaining weight rather quickly is a definite possibility. For me, eating healthy is much more difficult than working out so this takes a bit more willpower but is equally if not more important to commit to in order to stay healthy at work. In order to avoid reaching for the junk food, I knew I needed to have healthier options available to me when cravings hit. I first started by making it a point to pack my own lunch every day. I was spending a boat load of money eating out each day not to mention I wasn’t always picking the best meals options from the choices I had locally (mostly fast food). I also make it a point to bring my superfood shake to work with me in the morning which fills me up until lunchtime so I am not tempted by those early morning sweets. Keeping healthy snacks on hand is crucial as well especially if you are anything like me and like to graze on food throughout the day. Some suggestions are:
- Cut up fruit
- Apples and peanut butter
- Greek yogurt (I like to add honey and berries to mine)
- Nuts – Almonds in particular are a great snack
- Hummus and carrots
- Roasted Chickpeas
- Protein Shake (click here for the one I use)
- Cottage Cheese (great source of protein – sprinkle a little cinnamon on it for a sweeter treat)
I also keep some dark chocolate in my snack drawer for when that sweet tooth craving hits because it inevitably does each day immediately after lunch. By switching up my routine and bringing my meals with me to work I have not only saved a ton of money but I also feel so much better throughout each day now because I am not eating junk. I have more energy, my concentration is better and I can focus throughout the day without the crashes I used to have nearly every morning and afternoon.
Get your co-workers involved:
I promise you, they will thank you….eventually! 😊 When I started getting active, I quickly looked for races to sign up for to help keep me accountable to my goals and people to drag along with me to make the experience more fun. I was able to talk a few co-workers into doing a 5k with me as well as a mud run the first year. They were reluctant at first to say the least but after we crossed the finish line of both races we all had huge smiles on our faces and were eager to find more to sign up for. Now I have twice as many co-workers eager to join in every time I find a event I want to do! We have completed several 5k’s, a Color Run and just last month we had our biggest turn out yet for our third terrain race with almost the entire staff participating and even some who signed up their family members as well! These races are so much fun and a great team-building experience as well. A few ladies in my office have even started joining me on the days I workout on my lunch break in order to get some training in for the next event we all sign up for. Bringing fitness into the workplace I think has even made our team function better in our everyday work duties which is just an added bonus to all the fun we are having after working hours!
Just because you are stuck behind a desk the majority of the week does not mean you can’t be healthy!! Along with my suggestions above, just make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day, washing your hands and using hand sanitizer every so often because let’s face it an office can be a germy place, and heck maybe even swap that elevator out for the stairs each day (if you can) and see what a difference that makes! I also recommend blue light blocking lenses to help ease the strain on your eyes from that harsh computer screen. I have the blue light blocking tint on my prescription glasses but you can also get non-prescription blue light glasses if you already wear contacts or you’re one of the lucky ones that don’t need glasses or contacts at all. The bottom line is whether you actually go into an office Monday through Friday or even work from home but still find yourself sitting at a computer the majority of the day, staying on track with your health goals and making it a priority to take care of yourself isn’t impossible. Like most things health and fitness related, small changes to your daily habits can make a big difference!! Happy Monday y’all!
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